Abu Dhabi, and the wider Middle East for that matter, is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination, especially among those who want to explore outside the familiarity of Europe. Abu Dhabi, as the capital of the United Arab Emirates and its second largest city, is an excellent choice for travellers looking for an interesting location with magnificent views and culture.
Observation Deck at 300
Although it is Dubai which is often famed for its spectacular skyscrapers and white, sandy beaches, Abu Dhabi offers some of the best views to be had in the United Arab Emirates. The Observation Deck at 300 offers the highest vantage point in the city, providing visitors with a stunning view across the surrounding area which is difficult to rival. Every day, tourists ascend the 74 levels to the observation deck before enjoying high tea (to be booked in advance) or mocktails (non-alcoholic cocktails) with friends. There are few better ways to spend an afternoon than soaking up the sun here, while marvelling at your stunning surroundings.
As you would expect, holidays in Abu Dhabi often feature a trip on one of the many types of boat found in the local harbour. Travellers of all ages can enjoy scenic trips around the city’s coastline, with experienced sailors venturing out into the calm waters of the Persian Gulf. Travellers looking to meet new people should opt for afternoon trips, but those who desire some peace and quiet would enjoy an early morning sojourn to beat the crowds. Most hotels in Abu Dhabi offer packages including boat trips, which may include discounts for large groups.
Mixing with the locals is an integral part of most good holidays, and the Marina Mall is a great way to experience the local culture while not venturing too far from the main hotel complexes. Although most hotels in Abu Dhabi offer money exchange services, the Marina Mall gives one of the best exchange rates to be found in the city, tempting travellers to buy some of the local handicrafts on sale. Everything from crystal ornaments to high fashion clothes can be found, all just a short walk from the harbour.
Women’s Handicrafts Centre
If the Marina Mall doesn’t excite you, consider visiting the Women’s Handicrafts Centre. The Centre is a great way to experience true Middle Eastern culture and the heritage which surrounds such an old region of the world. Admission is approximately 5 dirham, for which you’ll be able to see local women make traditional crafts which can be purchased. The fee also includes entry to a small museum. The Centre aims to take tourists back to the time before Abu Dhabi was a major city and, although there are very few staff who speak English, the visit is truly worth it to experience a new side to Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital
For those interested in animals and rehabilitation, the Falcon Hospital is a nice way to spend a day in Abu Dhabi. The hospital allows visitors to get very close to the falcons being nursed back to health, and the veterinarians who are on hand are happy to discuss each bird and its story. A standard tour lasts two hours and includes refreshments throughout the tour, as well as access to the museum, falcon exhibitions and interaction with specialist guides. More expensive tours also include a traditional lunch and souvenir photo with a bird perched on your arm to show your friends back home.
Big Bus Tour
Bus tours are common all over the world, and Abu Dhabi is no exception. The bus tour offers a hop-on, hop-off service and a choice of languages for the audio guide, taking tourists around the major sights of the city. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Iranian Market all feature as part of the route and historical context will be given at all destinations. A bus tour could be a welcome break from walking around the city, enabling you to access everything that Abu Dhabi has to offer, without having to break into a sweat. As a bonus, free bottled water is available on the bus as standard.
Al Maqtaa Fort
This 200-year-old fort was originally built to defend the local population against bandits but today it houses a visitor centre to document the history of the United Arab Emirates. The fort isn’t one of the most popular tourist sites in Abu Dhabi, which makes it a good alternative to some of the rather busier sights in the city centre. While no longer serving as an active military base, photography is restricted in certain areas of the fort. Visitors are advised to heed warnings from guides and signs before taking any photographs.